Rival Sons are still touring off their latest album – Great Western Valkyrie, with wild abandon, but frontman Jay Buchanan was kind enough to take some time out to chat with P&W from a boarding gate at LAX.
P&W: Where does the inspiration to create and perform music come from?
JB: I think that’s a loaded question. Where does inspiration come from? It comes from various places. What’s really at the heart of your consciousness and your experiences and what’s in your head? It’s something that created a little spark. It’s like Tesla’s idea of energy that can just be drawn from thin air. I know there are so many things but a great part of creativity comes from necessity. If you put yourself on a schedule and force yourself to create something you’ll find you are actually creating something at a much higher level than if you just tell yourself you’ll get around to writing that song eventually. Once you chain yourself to that desk and write, when you peel back the layers, you will find something that’s been floating around in your skull or in your heart. You’ll find that it’s a never-ending mental cornucopia that you can never exhaust.
P&W: When was the first moment you looked in the mirror and knew this was what you wanted to do with the rest of your life?
JB: I don’t think there was ever one moment. It was a collection of moments ever since I was a young kid. There was never a chance of anything else. It was hopeless. When I was kid, I thought that everybody had that thing. That thing that they just knew was their thing, a certainty of purpose. And when I went to college and I would ask people what they wanted to do with their lives and they would say like, “Oh, I don’t know…” and it would just boggle my mind. Music was for me, something that I always wanted to attach my whole life to. It’s a thing that’s so beautiful. It can make you cry, it can make you see all these things, things that are stories with no words.
P&W: As an artist, have you ever had that crisis of conscience where you doubted the validity of things you have created?
JB: Of course. Artistically, I am definitely “pro-choice.” If you need to kill it, kill it because otherwise it will become a Frankenstein out there once you unchain it from the wall. And insecurities are rampant with artists. Some days you feel like you are on top of the world and the next day you really feel like you are a piece of shit. You think, “Wow, I am really doing a disservice to my art. Am I really working towards my full potential as an artist?” I just always try to not reproduce based on what people say because people can be really nasty and can also blow a lot of smoke up your ass. If you enjoy being stroked in the press, then you better enjoy being slammed too.
P&W: Do you think artists are more fragile when it comes to that?
JB: I think that as an artist you have to be self-sufficient and be your own cheerleader. You have to try to be really thick-skinned but every armor has a chink in it. You have to be emotionally aware enough to have quality content but at the same time you have to be really strong. If you try to separate yourself from the flock, someone is going to tell you how stupid you are and it begins in childhood. It doesn’t really stop.
P&W: So as the frontman for Rival Sons have you had to carefully construct a persona to go out on stage and perform or is that who you really are?
JB: There is no persona for me. You have to be yourself and that in and of itself is a tough job. You can’t superimpose others’ expectations onto you; like you’re an avatar of who they see, not who you really are. There’s no construction, no persona. If anything, when you’re on stage if you’re in stuck in your world and just in a trance or on drugs or drunk, I mean…it’s just music. It’s such a powerful narcotic that when it’s go-time, you just slip in to that character. The hammer drops and the clutch engages and you are in that gear. I just worry about the music. When you’re off stage, just try to be honest and shoot straight. Just trying to be yourself in life is a tough enough vocation.
P&W: Rival Sons has a great live show. What do you want people to experience at one of your shows? What’s your message?
JB: That’s a big responsibility. I don’t think we know what we are really capable of but as a band, we just want to keep asking ourselves, “How good of an album can we make? Who are we becoming and what is our potential?” That’s what concerns us the most. Our message is whatever the audience hears. Whatever they experience is their own. I stand for me. I stand for myself. We are just trying to be the best we can be.
Catch Rival Sons on May 15 at Irving Plaza.
Article: Hannah Soule